Clear and to the Point: 8 Psychological Principles for Compelling PowerPoint Presentations 1st Edition
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"...a world authority on the visual brain ...shows how to use this tool effectively."--Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct and Blank Slate
"I would say that this is one of the most useful books on PowerPoint to ever be printed."--Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen
"This review may not do justice to the insight and clarity of this excellent book which is easy to read, chock full of examples and filled with illustrations of the principles. It is the best book I have found so far on how to improve presentations--especially in PowerPoint."--Robert Hacker at Sophisticated Finance
"Kosslyn puts PowerPoint users on notice. Read this book, and you will be enlightened. Kosslyn's thorough and engaging treatment is based on broad scientific literature, and on his extensive experience. Besides covering the myriad features that PowerPoint offers, Kosslyn provides great advice on how to connect with an audience, tell a story, work at the right level of information, and come up for air." --Lawrence W. Barsalou, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology, Emory University
About the Author
Stephen M. Kosslyn is the former Chair of the Department of Psychology, currently Dean of Social Science and John Lindsley Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. A leading authority on the nature of visual mental imagery and visual communication, he has received numerous honors for his work in this field. His previous books include Image and Mind, Wet Mind: The New Cognitive Neuroscience (with Koenig), and Psychology: The Brain, the Person, the World (with Rosenberg).
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Certainly I was aware of some of the general "don'ts" in ppt such as not varying the font greatly throughout the presentation. However, this book helped me understand why I shouldn't do this. By knowing the why behind the rule, I can know use this knowledge more flexibly.
Some have indicated in their reviews that the information in this book was "basic." It may seem so, but given the fact that I have seen these 8 principles violated even in the most sophisticated and experienced presenters, I would invoke the old saying that common sense is not all that common. Perhaps people needed to understand why they should follow these principles to be convinced.
Finally, I appreciated Kosslyn's treatment of Tufte's argument that PowerPoint should never be used. Kosslyn makes that case that PowerPoint can be a powerful way to convey complex ideas, if used properly. Now that I know the 8 principles, I am confident that my presentations will be "clear and to the point."
The 'Do' and 'Don't' slides are also very good to bring the concepts to life. There are many lists of "10 things to remember" with mixed value, but you can typically find many useful nuggets in these lists. The author has presented these concepts in live workshops and has worked out the flow of the book so it feels very comfortable and flows well.
The biggest drawback is the difficult writing style. The author is obviously a very educated and intelligent man, but this works against him because the reader needs things to be simplified much more. The 8 principles need snappier names to really be memorable for the reader (eg. "The Principle of Perceptual Organization" could be re-named "The Law of Chunking"), and the writing style is a bit flat and not persuasive or energetic. This is a shame, because the concepts really are excellent but readers may not recognize them as excellent when they are presented without pizazz.
However, Kosslyn is an expert on visual perception, not an expert on learning. Therefore, take his suggestions on non-visual aspects of presentations with a grain of salt. For example, he endorses reading your slides aloud, which he says "gives the viewers two chances to understand and remember them". In fact, reading and hearing the same information *reduces* retention of information. For more details, see Multimedia Learning .
If you buy only one book to improve your presentations, I suggest that you get Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire (Bpg-Other) . However, "Clear and to the Point" is an excellent additional resource.
Top international reviews
Sadly we have all had to sit through most of the howlers he describes, but having read this book, I am not convinced there is anything ground breaking about his recommendations. This is stuff we have seen before and presented in a more informative way by the likes of Dave Paradi, Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.
The other ideas in this book, such as 'The Principle of relevance - communication is most effective when neither too much nor too little information is presented' is more a statement of the blindly obvious than a deep psychological insight and is practically repeated in Principle 8 - people have a limited capacity to retain and to process information and so will not understand a message if too much information must be retained or processed.'
If you are looking to polish your powerpoint, there are better books on the market and no better way than to go along to your local toastmasters group, deliver presentations and read the feedback you are given.
After introducing eight psychological principles related to perception he adresses several points you have to consider (text, color, graphs etc) while making your presentation. A nice thing are a couple of color graphics in the middle of the book in order to underline problems that may arise while using coulors (obviously difficult to follow if the book was throughout black and white).
Furthermore the book is well structured and short. For an American book I am happy that it has not the usual stories (or only few) used to illustrate but is straight to the point and as said short.
What could be a little more elaborated (altough not exactly the topic of the book) is to show for what kind of presentations/ subjects/ issues PP is good or not. Kosslyn gives some points on that while talking about the things you should think first (analysing the target group) but it would be nice if he had spend 1-2 pages more on that.
So for me between 4-5 stars and well above most of that rough and fast books that illustrate all the fancy stuff you can make in PP that only distract from your meaasge. For an OUP book also reasonable priced.